By exterminating this desire and passion one will be

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the clinging to life and the things of sense. By exterminating this desire and passion, one will be 79Ibid., p. 271 80Ibid., p. 279 81Herrlee C. Creel, Chinese Thought: From Confucius to Mao Tse-Tung (London: The University of Chicago Press, 1953), p. 196-197 82Yang, p. 243 83Yang, p. 201
free.84It is curious that the antagonist in Lu Xun’s tale should have had the Buddhist inclinations while the protagonist (Mei Jian Chi) wished to end his indifference towards life and feel passion. Lu Xun did not treat Laozi’s concept of “non-action” or “non-intention” 无为(wu-wei) with favor in Old Tales Retold. Lu Xun’s Laozi was indifferent to meaning and intention, and so he did not care for Confucius. He said and did things simply because they were a part of living as his philosophy centered on the inactivity of the brain: “The Sage knows without going, names without seeing, and completes without doing a thing.”85Although the Daoist sage was “useless” in the sense that his or her life did not have a pattern or plan, it was believed that the true person lived in accord with a reality that was boundless and unending. The disciple was discouraged from attempting to make the world a better place by means of social or political action, and was urged to live without regard to social consequences. Given the unfavorable way in which Lu Xun showed the indifferent behavior of Mei Jian Chi at the beginning of “Forging Swords,” it is clear that Lu Xun wished to portray the Daoists as lukewarm, indifferent people whose “spirit[s] ha[d] departed.”86They did not care what happened on earth, were like those in a different universe, and had nothing to contribute to the world and society. Laozi did not have any teeth87because he claimed that the hard, passionate aspects of a man’s identity that encouraged him to fight against the processes of life did not endure.88Because all that was left of Laozi was his tongue, the soft and indifferent part of his mouth, he could not enunciate his words and was unable to explain the way clearly. He had no teeth or the hard passion that drove people to clearly enunciate the path to enlightenment. It was not that the Daoist way “is hard to explain,”89but Laozi simply lacked 84Creel, p. 191 85Henricks, Taote jingchapter 47, p. 1786Yang, p. 227 87Ibid., p. 229 88Ibid., p. 235 89Ibid., p. 225
the passion to describe it. Laozi’s indifference to political and societal affairs enabled him to endure because he simply wished to survive. The government’s distortion of Daoist thought told the masses that it was easier to be soft, inactive, and indifferent than to fight popular opinion. Laozi’s disregard for the “hard” resulted in his inability to employ his imagination and think creatively. When he was trying to leave the pass, he could not do it alone and he longed for the creative capabilities of others.

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